RCI Ventures North America and Canada Q1 2016

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T H E B U S I N E S S O F VAC AT I O N Q1 2016


MAZATLÁN RISING Mexico’s success story

Q1 2016

BEARING FRUIT Alex Zozaya of Apple Leisure Group is looking ahead

SOCIAL STUDIES 10 ways to reach customers using popular social media platforms

TECH FORECAST 2016 The year of the robot and other predictions

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06 By the Numbers Exploring the vacation habits of owners versus non-owners

08 Travel Trends Staying healthy on vacation; the fast-growing family travel sector

08 Industry News Briefs Reports from the field

26 Technology & Marketing Keeping up with 2016’s top tech trends, from robots to apps

ON THE COVER The sun setting over Deer Island, off the coast of Mazatlán, Mexico. ON THIS PAGE Overlooking the Mazatlán coastline.

28 Industry Solutions Reintroducing the RCI app; new low-cost sales tools INSIGHT

30 Quality First Ocean 22


10 Social Studies Ten social media strategies for reaching customers on popular platforms

16 Bearing Fruit Alex Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group IN DEV ELOPMENT

20 Mazatlán Rising Mazatlán is a prime development opportunity in Mexico once again

34 Desert Oasis Cibola Vista Resort and Spa

38 Secrets to Success Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica

Enjoy RCI Ventures® magazine on your iPad®* when you download the RCI Ventures® magazine app for iPad® free at the iTunes® App Store. * RCI Ventures magazine is an independent publication and has not been authorized, sponsored or otherwise approved by Apple Inc. iPad and iTunes are registered trademarks of Apple Inc.

42 South African Idylls Touch Down Group

47 Recent RCI® Affiliated Resorts & Events Calendar 52 A Final Thought Off-duty with RCI’s Ricardo Montaudon

Senior Vice President: Philip S. Brojan. Publisher: Brian Bruno. Associate Publisher: Emily Sadlock. Contributing Editor: Helen Foster. Advisory Board Chair: Fiona Downing. Advisory Board: Jeff Parker, Kelly Deardorff, Eugenio Macouzet, Bob McGrath, Todd Menendez, Robert Stolt, Debbie Wunder. Associate Publisher, Multimedia: Madelyn A. Roberts, madelyn.roberts@storyworldwide.com, 646-437-0630 Advertising Sales & Traffic Coordinator: Jennifer An, jennifer.an@storyworldwide.com, 212-481-3452, x339 Editor in Chief: Sunshine Flint. Creative Director: Ash Oat. Managing Editor: Gaetano Pollice. Senior Editor: Bree Sposato. Assistant Editor: Jessen O’Brien. Copy Editor: Amy Lynn Tonsits. Art Director: Jenna Grady. Photography Director: Danielle Lamp. Contributing Editors: Sean Cunningham, Dave Johnston. Editorial Intern: Kyle Ver. Senior Producers: Justyna Banach, Carrie Blocher. Account Director: Mitchell Wexler. Senior Account Executive: Samantha Cranston. Chief Executive Officer: Kirk Cheyfitz. Vice President, Narrative: Charles Coxe.

No part of this magazine may be reproduced without written permission from RCI. RCI Ventures® magazine publishes opinions of many knowledgeable individuals. These opinions are not a substitute for legal, accounting or other professional advice. The views and conclusions expressed in RCI Ventures® magazine are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of RCI nor of its parent or affiliates. The information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources the proprietors believe to be correct. However, no legal liability can be accepted for any errors. RCI Ventures is a registered trademark of RCI, LLC. For all subscription queries, please contact rciventuresna@rci.com. 9998 North Michigan Road, Carmel, IN 46032 © 2016 RCI, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Printed in U.S.A.

2 Q1 2016





Making It Personal Focusing on owners’ individual vacation experiences is the way forward.



cruise ships to online trip planners, aims to personalize their customers’ experience. They realize that if you give someone an individual experience, you’ve also given them an authentic experience, which is what today’s travelers are looking for. The timeshare industry is leaps and bounds ahead when it comes to giving owners and guests a truly personal experience, from the destination they themselves have selected to the activities, services and amenities on offer there. Today’s travelers are looking not just for a place to stay but for a true connection to it while they are there. The industry now builds in those amenities at resorts and is working hard to give guests great access to what’s around them. It used to be about the accommodations, but now it’s really about the total experience. In this issue of RCI Ventures® magazine we delve into some of the trends shaping travelers’ and customers’ habits in 2016 and beyond, and what they are looking to experience when they go on a vacation. Family travel now makes up one-third of all leisure travel booked in the United States and is a growing market sector. This is a timeshare sweet spot. Room configurations and the amenities owners and guests have access to at resorts are focused on providing a great family experience for everyone—the kids, the parents and even the grandparents. It’s also about ensuring that the vacation experience is good for the family as a whole while each person also gets their own quality time. So children get to be at the kids’ club or at the pool while parents enjoy the spa; families come together in the living room in the evenings, but everyone has their own bed and gets a great night’s sleep.

Another trend is wellness tourism: We are starting to see highly amenitized resorts being developed that cater not just to guests who want to exercise in a gym or follow a weight-loss regimen but also to those who want healthy cuisine, including organic food provided by local farms; or special hiking trails around the property; or a unique mountaintop yoga studio. These are just some of the reasons that we as an industry must continue to focus on the owner and guest experience—and on providing the best experiences we can. For RCI, our focus is on enhancing the experience not just for RCI subscribing members but also for you, our affiliated resorts. For example, through RCI®360SM we aim to provide you with the support and tools you may need across your complete value chain, from leads and sales to operations and owners. We continue to upgrade these tools to provide you with the best opportunities to create a personal, individual vacation experience for each and every one of your owners and guests. Cheers to 2016 and another year of working together to create millions of memories for your owners and guests.

Gordon Gurnik President, RCI


SM Full circle supportSM for developers and owners

Over four decades of creativity and expertise in timeshare Innovative, up-to-date technology solutions An on-going conversation with 3.8 million members

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From interest to “YES.”

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Vacationer Variations Vacation owners and non-owners alike responded to a 2015 online survey conducted by Phocuswright in an effort to understand the preferences of both groups throughout the vacation cycle, from how they plan their trip to what they do once they’re enjoying it. The key takeaway: When you become a vacation owner, vacation instantly becomes a more important part of your life. As the comparisons below demonstrate, non-owners have much to gain from the timeshare product. From their responses, owners are more passionate about their vacations, tend to travel more frequently and are more likely to participate in memory-making activities at their destination. The differences are telling, and it’s clear that the industry can continue to reach and engage new generations of prospects by showcasing the promise and possibilities of purchasing timeshare.

6 Q1 2016





Healthy Is Getting to Be a Habit For more and more travelers, taking a vacation doesn’t mean taking time off from fitness. Today’s travelers increasingly place importance on staying fit and active when they travel, according to Health and Wellness in the Travel Industry, a trend report released by Skift in 2015. Wellness tourism encompasses good nutrition, weight loss, fitness and mind-body practices, and in 2013 it expanded to $494 billion in revenue, an increase of 12.65 percent from 2012. Spa

tourism is a separate category, one that has also seen a huge leap, growing 7.7 percent year on year, to $94 billion in 2013. Holidaymakers want help incorporating the same healthy lifestyle choices they make at home into their vacation while staying at their preferred destination and hotel. They also increasingly seek out specific trips designed according to their chosen form of fitness. The vacation ownership industry is responding to this consumer behavior with a number of programs and innovations. Wellness tourism is growing much (continued on page 9)

IN DUSTRY N EWS B RIE FS Fighting against fraud The American Resort Development Association awarded a research grant to Dr. Amy Gregory, an assistant professor at Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida, as part of several initiatives to fight fraud in the timeshare industry’s largely unregulated secondary market, which is plagued by resale scams. Dr. Gregory specializes in the timeshare product and vacation ownership and will conduct a marketsizing effort, updating existing research to identify active resale organizations, estimate sales volumes and determine the composition of this market in the United States.

Travel tourism leaders support the United Nations

Astoria Palawan’s newest amenity

The Global Travel Association Coalition, which represents the leading public and private bodies in the travel and tourism sector, has announced its support of the effort to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Travel and tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world, representing nearly 10 percent of global GDP and one in every 11 jobs on the planet. As such, the GTAC is well positioned to support Goal 1 (End poverty in all its forms everywhere), Goal 8 (Promote sustainable economic growth and decent work for all), Goal 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns) and Goal 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources).

Astoria Palawan, Astoria Vacation and Leisure Club, Inc.’s eco-conscious resort development on the island of Palawan, in the Philippines, recently opened a new on-site amenity: The Waterpark by Astoria. The park features attractions that complement the area’s Puerto Princesa Underground River. Resort guests now have access to a lazy river, giant adult slides, a corkscrew slide, a 1,500-squaremeter wave pool and a children’s pool with tumbling buckets, splash pads with water geysers and bamboo water cannons. Glass-bottomed boats and acrylic kayaks are also available for guests to use on Honda Bay to see the underwater wildlife. —reporting by Jessen O’Brien and Bree Sposato

Do you have news you’d like to share? Send us an email at rciventuresna@rci.com. 8 Q1 2016




faster than overall global tourism, and the domestic wellness traveler spends $688 on a typical trip, 159 percent more than the average visitor. The wellness trend is becoming a permanent fixture in the timeshare industry. Resort developers are expanding their product to include more options and access to regimens such as healthy cuisine, tailored fitness classes, weight-loss programs and expanded spa services. “Just getting away and having time to relax and restore yourself is a primary health benefit of going on vacation,” says Peter Roth, vice president of marketing, communications and industry relations for ARDA. “Giving timeshare owners access to amazing fitness instructors and special classes; in-room amenities, like yoga mats and elliptical machines; and healthy food choices that include organic and local ingredients will only increase their satisfaction and enjoyment of their stay.” From yoga retreats to wearable tracking tech, like Fitbit, to celebrity fitness trainers, resorts and hotels are rolling out new programs and options for the consumer. Guests don’t want to be relegated to the 24-hour fitness center—they want hiking trails, outdoor yoga classes in a beautiful setting and a choice of healthy, low-fat or vegetarian cuisine. “RCI® subscribing members have access to a wonderful array of healthy travel choices,” says Phil Brojan, senior vice president of global marketing for RCI. “From special spa retreats in the Dominican Republic to hiking around Lake Tahoe, RCI affiliated resorts put a premium on keeping guests active and continuing to improve their offerings.”

Destin, Florida, home of Holiday Beach Resorts.

All Together Now Family travel is one of the fastest-growing sectors in leisure travel. Family trips make up one third of all leisure-travel bookings in the United States, according to the US Family Travel Survey, a report recently released by the Family Travel Association in conjunction with the NYU School of Professional Studies Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. The survey found that 93 percent of respondents planned to travel with their children sometime in the next two years. And in the past year, families said, they took an average 3.5 domestic trips. The most popular type of vacation is the beach vacation, at 23 percent, Expedia’s 2015 Family Travel Study found, followed by theme parks, at 19 percent, and outdoor travel, at 18 percent. The timeshare industry is well suited to taking advantage of this trend, since the second-biggest challenge for families, after expense, is the timing of school breaks, according to the US Family Travel Survey. Families have to find accommodations and plan activities for when the kids are not in school, which means that vacation dates are set well in advance. “Families [who stay at Holiday Beach Resorts] have the comfort of knowing the time and date for their vacation each year, and what

unit they will be using,” says Kay Maye, president of Condominium Management Services, which manages Holiday Beach Resorts, a group of four seaside properties in Destin and Pensacola, Florida; and Biloxi, Mississippi. “They don’t have to spend a lot of valuable time researching for places to stay and availability.” Family travel is a priority across all income brackets, and affordability is an important factor, but finding activities that everyone will enjoy is also among the top five challenges for families. “Families find a familyfriendly location here, where the Gulf waters are crystal-clear, clean and shallow and we have all types of water sports and fishing,” Maye says. “They keep coming back, and they bring others with them. We have an owner couple who now have up to 38 people in their party, and that means revenue gained from rentals and for the HOAs, plus more completed exchanges.” Destin Holiday Beach Resort and other Gulf Coast resorts are directly on the beach, and that makes them popular destinations. “Our owners don’t have to worry about making reservations,” Maye says. “And if they wish to change their location, they can easily exchange their week and go somewhere else without having to start from scratch.”


Yearly familytravel spend


spent between $2,500 and $5,000


spent between $1,000 and $2,500


spent between $5,000 and $10,000 Source: The Family Travel Association’s September 2015 US Family Travel Survey

— S . F.



10 Q1 2016

Social Studies: 10 strategies to help marketers succeed

The social media landscape, bigger and more diverse than ever, affords unprecedented opportunities to build communities of brand-loyal vacation seekers. Here, 10 actionable ways that savvy companies can reach customers on today’s most popular platforms. IN DEPTH



ow more than ever, you need to reach your customers—and prospects—on their turf: social media. Seventy-one percent of consumers are more likely to purchase because of referrals on social media, according to Social Media Today, with Facebook being the site most apt to influence purchases. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said that companies’ social media posts affected their purchases. Yet successful brands know that it is not enough to simply establish a presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Your campaign must be inspirational and community focused, and built for mobile devices. “Social media represents an enormous opportunity for the vacation ownership industry,” says Jayson Smith, director of social media at RCI. We’ve canvassed the vacation ownership industry and beyond for 10 tried-and-true strategies that can help you optimize your own approach to social media—and help build an even stronger digital relationship with your owners, guests and prospects.


Your owners, guests and prospects are your number one source of content.

Resorts should both support the content their owners, guests and prospects generate organically on their social media sites as well as ask them to produce new content. On Facebook, Bluegreen Vacations frequently posts Owner Spotlights,

which feature user-submitted photographs. One recent example at press time: On October 11 an owner submitted a picture of herself petting a horse at the company’s Shenandoah Crossing resort, in Gordonsville, Virginia, and Bluegreen Vacations published it on its Facebook content feed along with a quotation from her. The comments posted by other followers— which included “Love this place!” and “Love riding the horses at

Shenandoah!”—reflect a high level of user satisfaction with the resort. The company also posts Owner Polls, asking followers to weigh in on fun and timely topics (“Haunted houses and ghost tours. Love or loathe them?”) and shares Owner Questions (“What’s your favorite way to search for flights?”). The brand even rewards loyalty, occasionally surprising a follower with a gift, such as a beach towel.




Content defines your brand. And it should not only promote but also inspire.

You could say that traditional brand marketing strategies were akin to standing on a mountaintop and shouting, hoping the message would fall on receptive ears. But today’s audiences are increasingly sophisticated, and will dismiss purely promotional content as noise. Successful brands are crafting far more personable content that correlates with the passion points of their customers. For example, Royal Caribbean’s Instagram tagline—“Make every day an adventure with Royal Caribbean, your official source for daily travel inspiration”—makes it clear that the cruise line is not taking a solely promotional approach but, rather, seeking to fuel travel aspirations. Posts focus on activities people dream about, like snorkeling in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and often make use of user-submitted photos (“ ‘Follow the fish to Charlotte Amalie.’ Snorkel snap by Alejandro P.”); exciting ship updates (“Anthem of the Seas is just around the bend. 25 days until the NYC arrival”); and the destinations their ships explore (“Piazzas and pizzas. Our two favorite things about

12 Q1 2016

Florence”). Similarly, RCI’s social media content is built to get people excited about vacationing, and also raise awareness about the benefits of timeshare. Ongoing Facebook series, such as Wanderlust Wednesdays, feature themes, like “the world’s most spectacular waterfalls.” And the GO RCI campaign doesn’t just encourage members to travel; it conveys the RCI value proposition.


Use Facebook for Business to target prospects.

There are myriad ways to run advertisements on Facebook to pursue leads. You can promote posts on your Facebook page, or you can run ads and optimize them for desktop or handheld mobile devices (refer to Facebook for Business’s “Ads Guide”). Once you choose the type of post or advertisement you want to publish, targeting comes into play. There are standard ways of targeting on Facebook (geography, sex, age) but also Interests (i.e., what you have liked on Facebook, which indicates your interests) and Behaviors ( job, mobile device, type of traveler). Furthermore, you can use your current user data, such as email lists and adding a pixel to your site to build a custom list.

For example, if you have the email address of every guest who visited your resort in the past two years but has not come back, you can set up a discount advertisement to entice them to return.


A strong community is key.

Your brand has the authority to own aspects of travel, and be the rallying point for vacation seekers and travel enthusiasts. Occidental Vacation Club takes this prospect seriously. “We want our members to know they have an online home, a place where they can dream about their upcoming vacation, see the familiar faces of our staff and other members and stay up-to-date about what’s going on with their Club,” says Ignaura Tejeda, social media manager. To that end, on Facebook, Occidental Vacation Club regularly asks members about their vacation plans and to share their destination photos. Meanwhile, Bluegreen Vacations asks owners to contribute advice about their favorite things to do in resort destinations, a practice that has the added benefit of being helpful to new owners. And in fact, creating content that is not only fun and aspirational but also informative for owners is essential to developing a robust and loyal


Social is visual.

Social media has shifted to be more about seeing than about reading. Facebook remains the most popular site—72 percent of adults who are online are Facebook users, which amounts to 62 percent of all American adults—and users remain highly engaged; 70 percent say they log on daily, according to a 2015 Pew

Research Center survey. The proportion of adults who use Pinterest and Instagram—two sites even more visually driven—has doubled since 2012. Thirty-one percent of adults online use Pinterest (up from 15 percent in 2012), and 28 percent use Instagram (up from 13 percent). Daily user engagement on both platforms is also up from 2014. This shift provides a great opportunity for businesses that are ready to embrace the visual medium. GoPro, the maker of video cameras you can strap onto your body to capture extreme adventures, counts YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds and channels as part of the “GoPro network” and launched channels on Xbox Live and Virgin America on which viewers could stream the compulsively watchable adventures of world-class skiers, BASE jumpers and more. GoPro is harnessing user content to such effect that the company is being hailed as transforming advertising as we know it.


Social is mobile.

Anything you are trying to market has to be a great experience on a handheld mobile device. Sixty-seven percent of adults are smartphone

users, the Pew Research survey found. More than half of U.S. smartphone owners check their devices a few times or more an hour, and most Americans have their smartphones with them all day and even all night, according to a 2015 Gallup report. “We are able to use Facebook to break out the results for how our content is performing on various platforms: desktops, mobile devices and so on,” adds RCI’s Jayson Smith. For example, when running a campaign on Facebook, RCI consistently sees more than 90 percent of engagement coming from mobile devices. “One way brands can improve their mobile experience is to be considerate of how users are gathering information and consuming content on their phones today,” says Leon Wallach, senior director of global e-commerce and consumer insights at RCI. “People take advantage of ‘stolen moments’ to conduct research on their mobile devices. It happens while at home or when out and about. This limited time is spent figuring out what they want to buy, places they want to go and things they want to do. Brands need to be better at providing consumers contextually relevant answers to their questions quickly. Users shouldn’t have to work for it.”

Above: Bluegreen Vacations posts Owner Questions on Facebook as part of its social content approach; one of Occidental Vacation Club’s communitybuilding Facebook posts. Opposite, from left: RCI’s Wanderlust Wednesday Facebook series gets people excited about vacationing and buying; Royal Caribbean highlights the beauty of one of its destinations.



community. Bluegreen Vacations recently published a post advertising a webinar made for owners who wanted a refresher on how to use the company’s Saved Points program. Bluegreen also posts photos of actual accommodations at its resorts and even highlights property renovations. Another good practice is to emphasize resort happenings that owners may not know about. If a resort hosts wine events, for instance, consider posting a picture of one to get owners excited about booking. Keep in mind that it’s important to establish and maintain a personable tone. Your followers must know that caring people, not robots, are operating your accounts. One way to demonstrate your brand’s humanity? If you happen to receive negative feedback online, address it in a timely and friendly manner.


Use your insight data.


Of all social platforms, timeshare owners engage primarily on Facebook. To get started, familiarize yourself with the Facebook Audience Insights tool. You can filter Insights by Demographics (age, sex, lifestyle, education, relationship status, etc.), Page Likes (the top pages people like in categories, such as sports and women’s apparel), Location and Language (where people live and the languages they speak), Facebook Usage (how often people in your target audience log in and which device or devices they use to log on) and Purchases Activity (past purchase behavior, such as substantial buying of women’s apparel, and methods, such as in-store and online). This data can be customized: You can slice it according to the general Facebook audience, to people connected to your Facebook page or to events and/or people in custom audiences you’ve already created. For example, RCI is able to run Insights for various types of members, including RCI Weeks® and RCI Points® subscribing members. These insights can help pinpoint business partnerships: If your audience has a strong preference for X, consider whether there is an opportunity to partner with a company tied to X. Furthermore, this capability combined with the RCI Timeshare Online Listening Center (TOLC) can provide sentiment volume analysis and workflow to ensure that your social audience is being appropriately served through social media channels. Launched in 2012, RCI’s TOLC provides detailed monthly customized listening reports to help clients utilize their brands’ online feedback. TOLC actively monitors for thousands of individual hotels and resort properties globally across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Yelp and more, in three languages, and reviews more than 35,000 mentions a month.

14 Q1 2016


Forget the myth that social media doesn’t appeal to all age groups.

Social media is relevant to everyone, regardless of age; the older segment researches and engages with brands through social media. Again, it’s useful to look at the Demographics tab of the Facebook Audience Insights tool to gauge the age groups that are most (and least) reached by and engaged with your brand’s Facebook page to optimize current reach but also to position your product for the next generation of buyers. Facebook still dominates: Eighty-two percent of adults online aged 18 to 29 use Facebook, according to the Pew Research survey, along with 79 percent of those 30 to 49, 64 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds and 48 percent of those 65 and older. But change is under way. “In the last few years there has been a massive growth of Gen Xers and baby boomer users on Instagram. Keep these audiences in mind when crafting messages for your Instagram campaigns,” Jayson Smith says. Some 28 percent of adults who are online use Instagram—55 percent of those aged 18 to 29, 28 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds and 11 percent of those 50 to 64. Twitter is more popular among younger adults: 30 percent of adults online under 50 use the platform, compared with 11 percent of those 50 and older. Meanwhile, a quarter of adults online use LinkedIn, and it is the only major social media platform for which usage rates are higher among 30to 49-year-olds than among 18- to 29-year-olds.


Consider all channels.

Once your company has mastered its Facebook approach, consider strategically branching into additional channels that heavily attract millennials. YouTube, Twitter and Google+ closely follow Facebook in popularity, and Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest

and Tumblr are not far behind, according to the GlobalWebIndex Social 2014 report, which tracks social media trends. And several social media platforms, including Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, saw a significant increase in daily user engagement, the Pew Research survey found. “Today Facebook is your bread and butter, but Instagram is where you want to prime your audience of future buyers,” Smith says. The takeaway is clear: Consider diversifying to maximize your brand’s impact.


Customer service is evolving.

Compared with communication channels such as the phone, online chat and email, support centers that reach customers in social networks are poised to be more proactive, flexible and effective. Indeed, airlines, tech and other industries have reported receiving benefits from handling customer service through social media. Customer satisfaction is higher because the responses are quicker than had they gone through traditional channels. (According to Brandwatch, 53 percent of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within one hour.) This approach enables you to gain insights into what people are saying about your brand online, and can help you create more-meaningful relationships with customers. TOLC uses technology to monitor conversations about, and online reviews of, its vacation ownership clients, helping spread positive brand mentions while addressing any customer service problems that arise. As with any shift in technology, there are downsides: Some information is too sensitive to share openly, for example. But emerging technologies, such as tweet-to-call, which enables a company to tweet back to customers a link to a temporary phone number that works only for that customer, aim to address these concerns.


Bearing Fruit

Alex Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group, reflects on his contributions to vacation ownership and the hospitality industry, and shares his plans for future growth. BY SU NSHIN E FLINT PHOTOG R APHY BY DE L SOL PHOTOG R APHY

WHEN do personal beliefs,



ethics and values drive professional behavior and supercede the bottom line? For Alex Zozaya that moment came last year, after Donald Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants entering the United States illegally made international headlines. In the wake of those comments, a number of companies and organizations cut ties with Trump businesses, including Apple Leisure Group (ALG), which announced that it would suspend all sales and promotions of Trump-branded hotels and properties. “This decision of cutting ties with Donald Trump’s business came from my heart,” Zozaya says. “We are an industry where the product is the experience, and the experience is delivered by the very same people Trump blasted. The least we can do is to be congruent with our principles and avoid supporting directly or indirectly a person who could hurt... any human being.” Zozaya’s intuitive management style was not learned in business school. The Mexican native became a hotelier almost by accident after traveling to Europe and working at hotels there for two years. He realized then that hospitality was his true vocation and decided to return to Mexico to join the largest hotel chain in the country, Fiesta Americana Hotels & Resorts. “I worked my way up from the bottom, starting in the kitchen at one of the hotels,” he says. “I moved up through different positions, including general manager, until I became vice president of sales and marketing.” In 2000, Zozaya and his wife moved to the United States and started a business. A year later he founded AMResorts® and opened its first resort, in Punta Cana. Soon the company also had hotels in Cancún, the Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta and


Los Cabos. Observing that his competitors were doing just fine in the vacation club business, even without the strong distribution and other attributes his company had, Zozaya saw an opportunity to create Unlimited Vacation Club by AMResorts®. “We refer to it as an elite benefits program for discerning travelers,” he says, “and our very strong distribution allowed us to understand our customers better and be in touch with them throughout their whole vacation experience. We had a chance to grow bigger and better, so we took that chance.” Zozaya’s goal was to have 10 hotels in 10 years, but his success greatly surpassed his ambitions, and by 2012 AMResorts® had more than 20 hotels and roughly 11,000 rooms. That year he formed Apple Leisure Group, a vertically integrated hospitality company composed of Apple Vacations®, Travel ImpressionsTM, CheapCaribbean.com®, AMResorts®, Amstar and Unlimited Vacation Club. Bain Capital then purchased a stake in ALG, which in three short years has captured 12 percent of all North American tourism to Mexico and the Caribbean, an impressive market share, and has been called a hospitality powerhouse. The vertically integrated business model has attracted customers and investors. This just made good sense, according to Zozaya, since the hotel company had a great product, desirable locations and scale, plus a distribution business that was the largest tour operator bringing U.S. residents to Mexico and the Caribbean. Having acquired CheapCaribbean.com® and Travel ImpressionsTM, two powerful distribution companies, ALG now has four companies on the distribution side, which makes up the bigger part of the business, posting close to $3.3 billion in annual sales. By putting that together with Amstar and

18 Q1 2016

Vacation clubs will continue to grow because they’re a product the consumer wants and is buying as the industry becomes more sophisticated. AMResorts®, ALG was able to increase its hotel business, capture the synergies of incremental volume coming from other distribution companies in the region and grow organically with its key suppliers, including airlines and other resorts. “We became the largest vertically integrated leisure company in America,” Zozaya says. The business model has many advantages, according to Zozaya, from utilizing economies of scale, to creating loyalty programs with more extras, to reacting faster to problems during the ramping up to a hotel opening or in a natural disaster, like a hurricane. “We can also deliver the whole vacation, not just the hotel, to our customer while guiding them to a better, more customized experience overall,” he says. The proof is in the satisfied customers who want more. ALG currently has 43 hotels and more than 15,000 rooms—numbers that

are up more than 30 percent from 2014. It has two resorts opening in Panama (one Secrets and one Dreams) and the same in Costa Rica, as well as one in the Dominican Republic, and in 2016 plans to expand an additional 25 percent. By 2017, ALG’s portfolio will contain 57 hotels and more than 21,000 rooms, a phenomenal rate of growth overall. “We will keep this momentum up by continuing to innovate and fully deliver our value proposition to all our stakeholders and, mainly, to our guests,” Zozaya says. “The profitability and satisfaction we are providing to our investors is contagious, so we have a strong engine pushing for more growth.” ALG and Zozaya’s strategy is to look at great beach destinations that are safe and appealing to the North American customer and can be reached in five hours or less, door to



door. The company is also investing in technology to get closer to the consumer and simplify travel agents’ work. In addition, Zozaya intends to push farther into Central America as well as Mexico and the Caribbean. His aim is to appeal to a customer base that is growing more global. “We have more-diverse products, brands and locations, and that attracts a more-diverse group of travelers,” he says. “At the same time, customers are looking for more-unique and richer vacation experiences for their time and money, so that’s what we give them.” Zozaya can’t always point to a spreadsheet to explain why he makes certain decisions. “I have a very intuitive style,” he says. “I follow my heart before any other guidelines. I take data and feedback into consideration, but I don’t analyze too much. I follow my instincts.” He believes in taking risks, but only for what he is fully committed to. “I do not suggest that other business leaders use my style,” he says. “It has worked for me so far, but it’s not the safest or most comfortable management style!” The risk taking has paid off for ALG and Zozaya. The CEO is bullish on the vacation club industry, from how much more sophisticated it is becoming to how timeshares in general are more recognized now as a travel option globally. The biggest challenge is in reaching U.S. residents who don’t travel outside their country. It’s a new market, but when 40 percent of package travelers say it’s their first time out of the States, it’s also a huge opportunity. “I believe that people who wear shoes bigger than their feet and work smart will see their feet grow,” Zozaya says. “The risk of failure diminishes when we do what we love.”


A sunny day at the beach in Mazatlรกn, Mexico.

Mazatlán Rising IN DEV ELOPMENT

After a years-long slowdown, Mazatlán is making a stunning comeback. BY SU NSHIN E FLINT


azatlán is a Mexican success story for the second time. After being American travelers’ top Mexican destination for decades, just a few short years ago the city found its tourism slowing down and its fortunes declining because of a combination of factors, from the recession in 2008 to consumer concerns over narco-corruption. But recent major investments in infrastructure and services, plus an overhaul of the police force and improved security, have turned this “Pearl of the Pacific” around: Mazatlán is a prime development opportunity once again.




12 miles of beautiful beaches, excellent shrimp and other seafood and restored colonial old town have always made this coastal port a draw for sun seekers, cruise ship passengers and holiday makers; millions visit every year. The 13-mile Malecón is one of the longest boardwalks in the world, and the colorful buildings in the old town, such as the restored Teatro Ángela Peralta and the 19th-century Plaza Machado, are beautiful reminders of days gone by. “The flavor of downtown historic Mazatlán makes it a high-quality destination,” says Ricardo Montaudon, president and CEO of RCI Latin America. “Plus, you have all the advantages of modern upscale resorts, with golf, deep-sea fishing, Ricardo Montaudon marinas and more.” President and Mazatlán shook off its doldrums CEO, RCI Latin America with the aid of sustained investment from the local, state and federal governments, in addition to sizable private investments, and was further helped along by the arrival of a new government and administration in the state of Sinaloa. “Since 2013 we’ve invested more than 50 million pesos in downtown, 26 million pesos along the Malecón, plus four million in the Golden Zone [of resorts],” says Francisco Cordova Celaya, secretary of tourism for Sinaloa since 2012. Seeing results And the strategy is working. At its lowest point, in 2010, Mazatlán received only four cruise ships during the entire year. For the 2015–2016 season, the city is expecting 103 dockings, by Carnival, Holland America, Princess and Norwegian cruise lines, which equals nearly half a million visitors, and has already confirmed 127 dockings for next season. In July 2015 the average occupancy rate for three-, four- and five-star hotels was 87 percent, and the amount of money spent per stay has increased 18 percent overall. Francisco The air lift is increasing too; AmeriCordova Celaya can Airlines recently launched a Secretary of tourism, Sinaloa direct flight from Los Angeles. US Airways, Delta, Alaska Airlines and others are increasing the number of flights and are sending bigger planes: This season they started four weeks earlier than last season and will end later. The brand-new Durango–Mazatlán highway, which has 115 bridges and 60 tunnels, is a feat of modern engineering that cut the drive time from Durango from eight hours to three. This has really opened up northern Mexico and is drawing visitors from Chihuahua,

22 Q1 2016

A scenic view of Mazatlán. Below, from left: A stunning slice of the area’s coastline; the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, in the colorful historic district.

Future Forward Q&A with Ernesto Coppel, president and owner of Pueblo Bonito Resorts and Spas.

Where do you expect to see growth in membership sales over the next few years? Most incremental growth will most likely come from Mexican nationals, although we aspire to grow the American market. What is the top priority for positioning your resorts for expansion and growth in Mazatlán when it comes to timeshares? I will continue to personally support, promote and invest in the destination itself, and remain committed to building the most high-end product in the vacation ownership category, at a pace dictated by market demand and ongoing sales. We are in the process of expanding Emerald Bay and our high-end fractional Emerald Estates. Our individual priority is to refresh the Mazatlán property next year and utilize it as points inventory for new members and as a celebrated five-star hotel for supporting sales and generating revenue from nightly rates and all-inclusive.



Are you renovating or expanding existing properties, or opening new ones, in Mazatlán ? We are currently building a new tower at the Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort & Spa, with a total investment of just under $9 million USD. The project will house 36 new units, expanded back-of-the-house facilities and totally renovated interiors, and a new restaurant will be unveiled as well. The Emerald Manor project is a new fractional program that encompasses eight four-bedroom superluxury villas with top-caliber amenities. Each residence has its own pools, spa, interior patios, barbecue grills and ample outdoor terraces. The first phase of the project, to be built this year, will represent a $2 million USD investment.


Zacatecas and Saltillo. In 2013 there were 1.7 million domestic visitors to Mazatlán, and the city anticipates having more than 2.2 million domestic visitors in the future. “It has been tremendous,” Secretary Cordova says of the highway. “We started promoting Mazatlán in northern Mexico before it was finished to take advantage of the boom.”

The pool area at El Cid Marina Beach Hotel in Mazatlán. Above: El Cid Marina Beach Hotel. Right: The new Durango–Mazatlán highway.

Resorts needed This boom translates into more rooms needed for visitors—not only those from abroad but the new domestic visitors as well. Currently Mazatlán has 12,000 rooms in 180 hotels, but 5,000 more are required to meet the demand during peak periods, when occupancy is already at 100 percent. Plus, hotels and resorts have to adapt to a new type of visitor. “The highway helped current players who were previously looking at the North American market to look at the domestic market as well,” Montaudon says. “A Mexican family may travel with five to eight people, plus

need room for vehicles and parking, so that changes the criteria for the building.” A number of new hotels are in the pipeline, including Holiday Inn and Pacific Sands, and Fiesta Americana and Camino Real are reported to be looking to enter the market. Approximately 15 hotel brands have

24 Q1 2016

It’s a beautiful place to visit, the safest port on the Pacific coast, with great food, and it’s economical. —FRANCISCO CORDOVA CELAYA, secretary of tourism for Sinaloa

construction permits, including five Mexican hotels, seven United States hotels and two Spanish hotels. Overall, Mazatlán is set to see an increase of 4,500 rooms by 2022. Pursuing perfection Mazatlán is becoming a true top-tier destination, known as much for its cultural and culinary attractions as for its sun, sea and sand. It’s also a destination that inspires repeat visits. Of visitors polled over the past summer, 36 percent had been there more than five times, and 19 percent between three and five times. “We have slightly more American owners than Mexican,” Montaudon says. “The foreign market loves it here.” RCI’s first affiliate in Mazatlán was established in 1980, and the city now has about 25 affiliated resorts. The resorts are responding to the influx of visitors by investing money in renovations, expansions and new builds. RCI affiliate El Cid Resorts has four resorts in Mazatlán, including the recently renovated El Cid Marina Beach hotel, in the Golden Zone; El Cid has the largest marina in the area, a private beach and several azure-blue swimming pools. “We have been working for the past two years on all the properties in Mazatlán,” Carlos Berdegué, president and CEO, says. “El Cid Marina Beach has been 100 percent renovated, including all rooms and public areas, plus the restaurants. At El Moro, 100 percent of the public areas have been

redone, including the lobbies, pools, elevators and restaurants, and 70 percent of the rooms are completed. We are seeing more growth in international visitors as well as domestic, and the future looks very bright.” Mazatlán’s government is also pursuing foreign investors and international chains that can bring in five-star resorts and mixed-use developments. The state government reports that it needs five-star properCarlos Berdegué ties because they President offer first-world and CEO, El Cid Resorts infrastructure, which is the most requested type. “Mazatlán is at the lower end of the market but has incredible luxury properties and services,” Montaudon says. “The big landowners and developers are now creating mixed-use properties with resorts, condos, fractional and timeshares, where owners have access to all the luxury hotel services.” The push now is to get the word out about Mazatlán and all it has to offer. “It’s a beautiful place to visit, the safest port on the Pacific coast, with great food, and it’s economical,” Secretary Cordova says. “Folks didn’t stop vacationing; they just changed their preferences. So we just remind people how much they loved it.”

An ambitious 30-hectare project along the Malecón will transform Mazatlán’s waterfront into a cultural oasis and parkland by 2019. Central Park (pictured above) will create green space sorely lacking in the city center in the form of landscaped lawns, playing fields, a lagoon, a botanical garden, a world-class aquarium and the pearl-shaped Museo Mazatlán (pictured below), a cultural center and museum designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero. Funding is coming from the private as well as public sectors; the state government is putting up six million pesos, and a group of 15 business leaders contributed an equal amount to fund the executive plan for Central Park’s development and the preliminary budget. The group is now in talks with Mexico’s federal government concerning the 600 million pesos needed to start construction. A project that has already been completed is the restoration of Mazatlán’s iconic saltwater public swimming pool, Carpa Olivera. Opened in 1914 near Olas Altas beach, off the Malecón, it was later destroyed by two hurricanes. Restored and reopened in 2015, it has a large spiral waterslide, ramps and modern bathrooms. In the Plaza Machado, in the city center, Casa 46 is a new culinary destination from Pueblo Bonito Resorts and chef Marino Maganda, who serves Sinaloan cuisine in an elegant dining room and on a second-floor balcony overlooking the historic square. Also in the works is a pier at the foot of Cerro del Creston, the hill that is home to El Faro lighthouse, the tallest in the Americas; and the restoring of historic Fort 31 de Marzo, at the south end of the Malecón.



Mazatlán on the Rise


Tech Forecast 2016 It’s a big year, poised to change how your resort connects with guests (and keeps them connected on arrival). Here are the gadgets, apps and robots—yes, robots—you’ll want to incorporate into your marketing and operations initiatives in the next 12 months. BY SE AN CU N NING HAM



No business wants to fall behind the times, and 2016 will be a year in which it could be very easy to do so. For people who grew up envisioning a future filled with robots and houses that ran themselves and helmets that let you experience whole new worlds, childhood fantasies are becoming increasingly plausible. Scott Stein, senior editor at CNET, which covers the latest technology breakthroughs, takes RCI Ventures® magazine through a year likely to demonstrate that “futuristic” technology has impressive present-day applications, whether you’re seeking new ways to attract prospective owners or just trying to run your property as efficiently as possible.

Virtual reality It’s defined as the computer-generated simulation of a 3-D environment a person can interact with in a seemingly real way using electronic equipment (such as a helmet with a screen inside). Virtual reality is potentially the next best thing to being there, allowing prospects to discover exactly what they’re missing at the sales table and providing an effective tool for trade shows. “Virtual reality has been discussed seemingly everywhere and by every major publication,” Stein says, but he cautions that we shouldn’t think there’s nothing left to say: “The actual tech mostly debuts in 2016.”

Look forward to Facebook-owned Oculus debuting its Oculus Rift virtual reality platform for PCs, Sony unveiling its PlayStation VR (which works with the PlayStation 4) and HTC releasing the HTC Vive, a virtual reality system for PCs developed with Valve. For those seeking wearable devices, Oculus and Samsung have Gear VR. Google has introduced an affordable take on virtual reality with Google Cardboard, a $30 device that CNET describes as a “fun, inexpensive way to turn nearly any iPhone®* or AndroidTM** phone into a virtual reality viewer.” And stay tuned for what Stein says is “a wave of new apps, games and experiences as brands race to get exposure in this new tech.” That includes the travel industry— already customers are able to tour properties virtually with one of Oculus’s devices.

Scott Stein Senior editor CNET

Mobile payments In 2016 mobile payments will become increasingly ubiquitous. As RCI Ventures magazine predicted last year, travelers are particularly drawn to smartwatches, which can make mobile payment a snap. “Samsung, AndroidTM** and Apple all have phone-based near-field communication payment systems that work with certain compatible contactless terminals, but not enough stores and

registers support them yet,” Stein says. “That should change rapidly. Expect that ways to pay will move beyond credit cards and to phones, watches, bands and other types of smart wallets.” Marketers for resorts can take advantage of this trend by sending offers and discounts directly to mobile devices. One company that has seized the moment? Starbucks, which announced in 2015 that mobile payments accounted for roughly 20 percent of its sales. Robotics “Robots are on the rise, especially ones we can control or see through,” Stein says. Many of them are already among us, he adds. “Robot drones and small telepresence robots have been trickling out slowly over the past few years.” Telepresence mobile robots have two-way-video capability and can roam freely and remotely. It’s an ideal method for communicating with other resort managers in your network, and can allow an owner in Orlando to explore another property in your resort group in the Dominican Republic. Stein is excited about potential new developments this year: “smart talking dolls; robot toys, like the Sphero-designed Star Wars BB-8 toy; and the growth of drones point to a lot of directions this can take next.” That said, one relatively simple yet highly useful application for robotics has been with us for years: vacuum cleaning. The Neato Robotics XV Signature Pro, for instance, can be programmed to automatically perform its cleaning

duties. Highly customizable, it can clean at different times on different days. It can help adjust the workload for your housekeeping team and maximizes privacy for owners by letting them clean their rooms on their own schedules, without outside involvement. The smarter home “Smartwatches have already flooded the market, but the next wave of bands and watches will start working as smart remotes that can connect with other devices, too,” Stein says, noting that these devices include cars, appliances, smart home hubs and smart beacons at stores and stadiums. There are potential benefits both for individual owners (at some resorts, a guest can use their mobile phone as a room key) and on the macro level (a property management system can automatically set the appropriate heating or air-conditioning level when the owners arrive, then switch to “energy saver” the moment they depart). The biggest challenge with smart home tech, Stein says, is that the “gadgets and protocols are still really fragmented,” but he’s optimistic for 2016: “Hopefully things get simpler this year.”


Augmented reality There’s the real world, and there’s the virtual world—and this is the way to combine them. “Augmented reality takes virtual reality one step further by seemingly projecting 3-D experiences seamlessly into the world around you,” Stein says. For instance, the augmented reality travel app Paris, Then and Now City Guide, by Geoquestour, lets visitors to the City of Light see how the streets have changed over time by superimposing historical images atop their real-life view of the city. Augmented reality can also be a way for visiting prospects to develop a deeper appreciation of your property and surrounding community. If a guest has a disability, for example, it can help them choose paths that let them avoid steps. Augmented reality is both more complex and currently less advanced than virtual reality. But intriguing developments are on the horizon. One key product is Microsoft’s HoloLens, which will start to emerge in a developer-friendly version. “Its wirefree design gives it a portable, Google Glass–like feel, but it can be used in games as well as productivity and entertainment software,” Stein says. Key players in the field include the secretive startup Magic Leap, which has secured hundreds of millions’ worth of investments from supporters, among them Google, which promises “cinematic reality”; and even Google Glass, which Stein says has “fizzled to near extinction but may see a reboot.”

*RCI Ventures® magazine is an independent publication and has not been authorized, sponsored or otherwise approved by Apple Inc. iPhone is a registered trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the United States and other countries. **Android is a trademark of Google, Inc.


The RCI app is free to download for Apple iOS devices, including the iPhone®* and iPad®*, at the App Store*, and a version for AndroidTM devices** is coming soon.


Transforming the Travel Journey


With its new redesign, the RCI® app aims to win the hearts and minds—and travel wallets— of owners and guests. Travelers are always on the go—and now they’re always plugged in, too, their smartphones and tablets at the ready to help them make travel decisions at a moment’s notice. So equipping them with the vacation information they need whenever they need it is certainly a tall order. But as the new redesign of the RCI app proves, it’s not an impossible one. The free RCI app just debuted in December on Apple’s iOS platforms, including the iPhone® and iPad®, and its new look and feel are immediately apparent. The streamlined design, simplified navigation and improved search functionality ensure that users can find their way around more easily. New tools that take advantage of the portability of mobile devices have been incorporated as well, including local time and weather forecasts. The digital RCI® Directory of Affiliated Resorts is now also accessible in the RCI app, ensuring that RCI® subscribing members won’t miss out on exploring any of the approximately 4,500 RCI® affiliated resorts. The improvements in the user experience are far more than skin deep. RCI went to great lengths to first understand the nuances of the digital journey of today’s savvy consumers, then allowed those findings to dictate the features of the RCI app, says Christine Ciccone, vice president of global ecommerce and online marketing for RCI. “Consumers who are looking for a vacation frequently don’t know where they want to go and what they want to do when they start searching,” she says. “The travel journey begins when someone starts this phase of dreaming about a vacation. To capitalize on this, the digital experience needs to be more than just the purchasing process to win the hearts, minds and travel wallets of consumers.” How best to entice these digital dreamers? The adage that content is king proves truer than ever, and meaningful content about far-flung destinations is now a cornerstone of the app. “We’re providing enhanced support to our subscribing members at the beginning of their travel journey, and providing content based on what members want to experience while on vacation to guide them as they explore destinations or learn about locations,” Ciccone says. “We are also providing a more intimate

28 Q1 2016

level of content so members can learn about and plan what they can do while visiting a location.” The ultimate goal is for the RCI app to be a one-stop shop for RCI subscribing members, going far beyond the travel transaction alone. The inclusion of the digital RCI Directory of Affiliated Resorts, as well as curated content from the likes of Endless Vacation® magazine, helps members determine more quickly and easily where they want to go on vacation and complete their bookings. They can then go a step further and use the RCI app to help plan activities that will maximize their vacation experience while they’re at their chosen destination. The app also showcases the breadth of vacation experiences available at RCI affiliated resorts—providing yet another catalyst to book a trip. “This additional vacation information gives members more context beyond what they can experience at a resort, making vacationing at a specific resort that much more enticing and desirable, and driving more bookings,” Ciccone says. What better way to entice new guests than by making the vacation information they need available right at their fingertips anytime they need it?

T H E R C I A P P AT A G L A N C E New features, helpful content and useful tools include: • Intuitive search • Simplified navigation • The feature Compare RCI® Affiliated Resorts, which lets users review resort ratings, RCI® Award designations, All-Inclusive Resort indicators, on-site amenities and more • Vacation history, which automatically saves trips

• Time and weather • Interactive maps • Local restaurants, attractions and events • Social sharing via RCI’s social channels • Favorited resorts • Travel content, including in-depth articles and videos from Endless Vacation® magazine

D I D YO U K N OW ? In a 2015 online survey conducted by Phocuswright, 30.6 percent of vacation owners said they used tablets and 37.2 percent said they used smartphones to help them compare and choose travel products. Those are notably higher uses of mobile devices than those of non-owners, who responded at 21 percent and 21.8 percent, respectively. For more insights about owners from the Phocuswright survey, see By the Numbers, on page 6.

*RCI Ventures® magazine is an independent publication and has not been authorized, sponsored or otherwise approved by Apple Inc. Apple, the Apple logo, and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App store is a service mark of Apple Inc. **Android is a trademark of Google, Inc.


More Benefits, More Impact Motivate prospects with RCI’s new array of flexible and low-cost sales tools.

N E W S A L E S TO O L S AT A G L A N C E TOUR PREMIUMS Endless Vacation Savings Pack • Designed for non-RCI subscribing members via frontline sales. • An allotment of Savings Dollars that can be redeemed to buy down the cost of select hotels, cruise vacations, tours, packages, brand-name merchandise, and wine (where legally available to ship).* • A low-cost Getaway Resort Stay with a 365-day search window. RCI Travel Savings Pack • Designed for RCI subscribing members via in-house sales. • An allotment of Savings Dollars that can be redeemed for a fixed amount to buy down the cost of select hotels, tours, packages, brand-name merchandise, and wine (where legally available to ship).* • An RCI Cruise Pass allowing RCI subscribing members to save on select cruise vacations without an exchange. PURCHASE INCENTIVES Upgraded RCI Travel Savings Packs • Designed to integrate seamlessly with Savings Packs tour premiums. • Upgraded versions include additional Savings Dollars; deeper Getaway Resort Stay discounts; plus extended use life, in order to optimize the incentive to purchase today. • Unique tiered options exist to help affiliates find the level of benefits and costs that meets their individual needs.

TRIAL & EXIT PROGRAMS RCI Experiences • Unlimited low-cost weekly Getaway Resort Stays at select destinations around the world. • RCI can confirm the home resort stay or direct members to the affiliate’s reservations department to complete the booking. Getaways can be deferred until the home resort return is confirmed. • An allotment of Savings Dollars that can be redeemed for a fixed amount to buy down the cost of select hotels, cruise vacations, tours, packages, brand-name merchandise, and wine (where legally available to ship).* Endless Vacation Club • Unlimited low-cost weekly Getaway Resort Stays around the world. • Unlimited access to Preferred Resort Stays, offering discounts off the openmarket rental rate of select resort stays found at Endless Vacation Rentals. • An annual allotment of Savings Dollars that can be redeemed for a fixed amount to buy down the cost of select hotels, cruise vacations, tours, packages, brand-name merchandise, and wine (where legally available to ship).*

TO LEARN MORE Contact your RCI Account Executive for more information about how RCI’s new integrated sales incentives can help your resort.

*Savings Dollars can only be redeemed on certain designated RCI Travel websites. RCI VENTURES 29


As RCI® affiliated resorts look ahead to 2016, RCI is preparing to assist with a new assortment of sales and marketing packages designed to help support affiliates and incentivize prospects in the new year. Soon sales teams at RCI® affiliated resorts will be able to choose from an array of off-the-shelf products devised to enhance presentations at the sales table, including tour premiums, purchase incentives, a trial program and an exit product. Many of these products can be shown to prospects using the RCI® Custom Benefits & Incentives Platform, a white-label web-based solution that enables affiliates to promote a variety of travel and leisure benefits. These flexible, innovative sales and marketing tools can help improve an affiliated resort’s closing rates and increase revenue while helping drive down operating costs. When a prospect attends a vacation ownership presentation, affiliates will be able to offer them tour premiums in the form of two types of Savings Packs: the Endless Vacation® Savings Pack, designed for non-members; and the RCI Travel® Savings Pack, for RCI® subscribing members. In addition, these Savings Packs can be upgraded seamlessly with low-cost, high-impact purchase incentives throughout the sales process to motivate prospects further. Upgraded Savings Packs will be designed to help optimize sales, providing prospects with the crucial incentives they need to make a purchase. For non-buyers, RCI affiliated resorts can choose to use RCI Experiences as a trial program that supports encouraging a return visit to the home resort or, if they prefer, sell Endless Vacation Club as a traditional exit program for recovering marketing expenses. Either way, these product options are designed to integrate seamlessly throughout your sales presentation, making every tour count. “We’re excited to soon offer affiliated resorts this new and diverse array of sales and marketing tools,” says Fiona Downing, senior vice president of business development and operations at RCI. “These game-changing products are designed with maximum flexibility in mind so affiliates can choose what’s right for them and their prospects. Everyone stands to benefit: Affiliates can utilize solutions that will best fit the unique requirements of their businesses and the preferences of their sales prospects.”



Quality First Hilton Grand Vacations’ new Myrtle Beach property attracts owners with its upscale offerings and high standards. BY J E SSE N O ’ B RIE N

30 Q1 2016

Stan Soroka Senior vice president of Club, Resort and Brand services Hilton Grand Vacations

T H E H I LTO N GRAND VAC AT I O N S PORTFOLIO HGV’s properties span eight countries around the world, including: UNITED STATES California Colorado Florida Hawaii Nevada New York South Carolina Utah CANADA ITALY MEXICO NEW ZEALAND PORTUGAL SCOTLAND THAILAND


Ocean 22, with the industry-leading sales and marketing expertise of Hilton Grand Vacations.” Directly across the street from the resort stands a 10,400-square-foot state-of-the-art sales gallery built solely and specifically for Hilton Grand Vacations. The sales gallery opened in February 2015, months before Ocean 22, to help bolster sales. This double emphasis, on high-end properties as well as strong sales and marketing initiatives, has surely helped Hilton Grand Vacations continue in its role as a top industry player. The company manages two membership programs (Hilton Grand Vacations Club and The Hilton Club) for more than 245,000 members and operates a variety of properties in destinations ranging from California to Thailand. In Soroka’s recent conversation with RCI Ventures® magazine, he spoke about the keys to Hilton Grand Vacations’ success, the qualities that have helped make Ocean 22 a standard-bearer and what’s on the horizon for the Hilton Grand Vacations brand later this year.


opened its doors and began breaking records. At 24 floors, the 240-foot oceanfront tower is the tallest resort in Myrtle Beach. It’s also the first new resort construction since 2008 on South Carolina’s more than 60-mile stretch of beaches, the Grand Strand. But most impressive: Ocean 22 represents a notable step forward for both the area and the vacation ownership industry as a whole in that it sets a benchmark for excellence in terms of development, decor, aesthetics and luxury standards. “Ocean 22 sets a precedent as a high-end timeshare property along the Grand Strand,” says Stan Soroka, senior vice president of Club, Resort and Brand services for Hilton Grand Vacations. “It’s more upscale in its offerings, which makes it the beach’s premier timeshare destination, and this is a key differentiator for the resort. In addition, the property combines the established strength of Strand Capital Group, the premier real estate development firm on the Carolina coast and developer of



From left: At 24 floors, Ocean 22’s 240-foot oceanfront tower is the tallest resort in Myrtle Beach; the resort’s covered pool boasts an ocean view; Ocean 22’s colorful lobby lounge.

We’re proud to play a role in strengthening the economy of Myrtle Beach and are hopeful that Ocean 22 will set a new standard that future properties coming into the region will aim to emulate. —STAN SOROKA, Senior vice president of Club, Resort and Brand services, Hilton Grand Vacations

32 Q1 2016

V: Tell us about the typical Ocean 22 vacation experience.

outdoor pools on-site, one of which is heated and will be enclosed during the winter season. The resort also has SS: Ocean 22 provides our club a hot tub, seasonal pool bar, lobby bar members and guests with the opportu- and grab-and-go deli. In addition to nity to truly get away, whether by simply direct beach access, Ocean 22 provides unwinding or by embracing their spirit a dedicated kids’ area. Off-site, Ocean of adventure. Each condominium22 is within ideal proximity of Myrtle style suite, ranging from one to three Beach’s area entertainment and rebedrooms, features a fully equipped nowned golf. Guests can dive headfirst kitchen. In addition, guests are entitled into the area’s best water-park experito a host of resort amenities, including ence, at Wild Water & Wheels Water direct beach access, a swimming pool, Park, with complimentary unlimited a hot tub and a seasonal pool bar—all admission for each guest on the room ideal for an escape. Myrtle Beach’s sun- reservation. They can play a round of splashed shorelines, award-winning championship golf with complimengolf courses, signature boardwalk and tary greens fees for tee times booked popular shopping, dining and nightlife within 48 hours of play at more than a are just steps away and offer a wealth dozen local golf courses. of adventures for families and couples alike. V: What methods did you use to create such a high-end product? V: Can you tell us more about some of the unique amenities SS: Quality is synonymous with the that set Ocean 22 apart from Hilton name, and we invest the time other offerings in the area? and resources necessary to ensure that our team members are properly SS: Many of the units are either ocean- equipped to provide a consistent front or ocean view. There are two experience for our guests across the

V: Who are your most promising prospects? SS: Guests of Ocean 22 are primarily families and couples traveling for leisure and originating from the drive-market region—South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia. Staying an average of three to four nights, owners often seek to experience the diversity of activities native to Myrtle Beach. These can include playing and relaxing on the beach, nearby dining at Broadway at the Beach, challenging golf

on many of area’s famous courses and one-of-a-kind entertainment at Myrtle Beach’s numerous theaters and music venues. V: Why did Ocean 22 affiliate with RCI? SS: The affiliation between Hilton Grand Vacations and RCI for Ocean 22 began at the launch of sales for the resort, in March 2014. Each of our affiliations with RCI truly serves as a value-add for our club members by providing them access to destinations we haven’t yet reached. V: Clearly, Ocean 22 has benefited Hilton Grand Vacations. How has the resort affected the Myrtle Beach community? SS: Ocean 22 has had positive impacts on the area in several forms, from job creation to increased tourism potential for the Grand Strand. The new Myrtle Beach resort development will be an attractive travel incentive for the 245,000 club members within Hilton

Grand Vacations. And as part of the Hilton Worldwide portfolio of brands, Hilton Grand Vacations and Ocean 22 will promote the Myrtle Beach destination to the 44 million members of Hilton Worldwide’s guest loyalty program, Hilton HHonors. We’re proud to play a role in strengthening the economy of Myrtle Beach and are hopeful that Ocean 22 will set a new standard that future properties coming into the region will aim to emulate. V: What’s next for Hilton Grand Vacations? SS: The Ocean 22 project is now complete, and we will continue to promote this resort as the premier destination along the famous Myrtle Beach waterfront. Hilton Grand Vacations will partner again with Strand Capital Group, on a new project on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. This resort, Ocean Oak by Hilton Grand Vacations Club, is under construction and is expected to open in fall 2016.

AMENITIES AT A GLANCE: • Spacious one-, two- and threebedroom suites, all with fully equipped kitchen • Outdoor pool and seasonal pool bar • Enclosed pool and hot tub • Grab-and-go deli • Fitness center • Lobby lounge • Youth activity center INSIGHT


Hilton Grand Vacations portfolio. Before the opening of Ocean 22, we assembled a team of experts from throughout our organization to ensure that all aspects of the resort experience exceeded guests’ expectations. Furthermore, we are subject to routine stringent inspections by Hilton Worldwide QA and undergo several assessments throughout the year. We also worked with our development partners to ensure that the design and furnishing of the resort set a new standard for our brand in the market.

hiltongrandvacations.com RCI VENTURES 33

The Franciscan Pool and CafĂŠ, exclusively for adults, at Cibola Vista Resort and Spa.



Desert Oasis The history of the American West comes alive at Cibola Vista Resort and Spa. B Y D AV E J O H N S T O N

34 Q1 2016

Neil S. Cumsky CEO Princeton Resorts Group

Ada Grzywna Senior vice president of resort operations Bluegreen Vacations

Terry A. Dodd Senior vice president of development services Bluegreen Vacations




were entranced by tales of the Seven Cities of Cibola. Supposed to be located somewhere in the Sonoran Desert, these cities were said to be filled with fabulous treasures. Those Spanish explorers never found those mythical cities of gold, but owners and guests at Cibola Vista Resort and Spa will discover their own Sonoran Desert treasure. Surrounded by the desert landscape of Peoria, Arizona, Cibola Vista Resort and Spa opened in October 2006 with 80 twobedroom units. The property proved so popular that 128 more two-bedroom units were added in 2008, along with a $4 million swimming complex, according to Neil S. Cumsky, the CEO of Princeton Resorts Group. The latter includes a three-story curling slide, a whirlpool vortex, a lazy river section, lap lanes and a special beach entry for toddlers. This phase of construction also added an on-site equestrian program set alongside a “Western ghost town.” Another phase, in December 2014, created 40 more units, along with amenities such as a large outdoor whirlpool spa, an expanded café and, fitting in with the setting, a cactus garden. Since its inception, Cumsky says, the resort has been recognized for its architecture, even claiming an award from the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) in 2006.

Our continued goal is to become the premier Western-themed destination in the United States.


—NEIL S. CUMSKY, CEO, Princeton Resorts Group

36 Q1 2016

History at heart The architecture and aesthetics at Cibola Vista are intrinsic to the property’s environment. “The concept behind Cibola Vista’s design and ambience is to tell the story of the discovery and growth of the American West, from earliest Native American days, to the conquistadors’ search for the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola, to the settlement of the frontier in the late 19th century, to the present,” Cumsky says. At the resort, Native American culture is represented by circular meeting places known as kivas, while the Spanish colonial architecture of the main campus points to the 16th century. The Cibola Vista Ranch and ghost town provide echoes of the American West, and the present is represented by sailplane and balloon flights as well as astronomical stargazing events. In fact, the resort’s horseback riding program is a popular way for guests to make their own connection with both the history of the Old West and the breathtaking desert landscape. “The resort has its own horse stable on the property from which our guests may enjoy daily

trail rides in the beautiful desert and little wranglers can take pony rides in the on-site paddock,” Cumsky says. For additional experiences in this unique setting, he says, Cibola Vista has partnered with local adventure providers so guests can “take in all that Arizona has to offer, from desert jeep tours to hot-air ballooning to boating and fishing on nearby Lake Pleasant.” Whether they’ve spent the day on the dusty trail or relaxing by one of the resort’s pools, owners and guests can enjoy Cibola’s spa, which offers massages that include Swedish and Ashiatsu barefoot massage, reiki and chakra balancing, skin and nail care, waxing and tinting, hair care and special body treatments. “Our newest signature treatment is a menu of outdoor massages on the spa’s private balcony: Under the Desert Sky, Massage at Dusk and Moonlight Massage,” Cumsky says. Success in service Cibola Vista has been managed by Bluegreen Vacations since 2009, when Bluegreen expanded its business model and began providing

From left: The award-winning architecture at Cibola Vista invites guests to imagine life within the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola; the resort’s 2.5-acre Lagoon Pool, with a threestory waterslide; guests can enjoy views of classic desert vistas while relaxing on the resort’s outdoor patios.


then, Grzywna says, Bluegreen continually works to ensure that this level of service is maintained. “We continue our associates’ training and development through immediate feedback from online post-stay surveys that allow us to identify and address areas of opportunity. We also have a quality assurance process that allows us to measure our performance against our own standards.” Western exposure “The overall business relationship with Neil and Cibola Vista has been rewarding,” says Terry A. Dodd, senior vice president of development services at Bluegreen. The resort provides “an excellent opportunity to continue to improve our westward presence, improve our sales locally, balance our demand away from the summer in other locations and provide our 190,000 club owners with a highly amenitized resort location,” he says. “And the occupancy rates this summer truly exceeded our expectations.” Dodd credits Bluegreen’s enduring relationship with RCI as well. “RCI has been part of Bluegreen Vacation Club

since 1994 and has been a constant part of our success.” While it’s important for Cibola Vista to celebrate and value the region’s past, the resort’s leaders are also focused on the future. Right now Cibola Vista has 248 units and plans to expand to 480. The latest phase of development will add 40 more units along with an eventsport lawn and a maintenance campus, as well as water features throughout the resort. Subsequent phases will see a new restaurant, an orchard of fruit trees, new meeting spaces and a new check-in facility. Finally, a neighboring property has been zoned for timeshare and approved for an additional 240 rooms. “Our continued goal is to become the premier Western-themed destination in the United States,” Cumsky says. While 16th-century Spaniards may never have found their treasure, owners and guests at Cibola Vista Resort and Spa will definitely look forward to a rewarding desert experience every time they visit.

AMENITIES AT A G L A N C E : • Adult pool and hot tub • Lagoon pool with a vortex pool and hot tub • Waterslide • Barbecue grills • Fire pit • Horse corral • Cactus garden • Cowboy town


fee-based resort management, marketing sales and design expertise to developer clients. Service is at the heart of what it provides, according to Ada Grzywna, senior vice president of resort operations for Bluegreen. “The service is extremely personal,” she says. “People live and breathe the passion and vision the developer exudes….From the resort’s concept to service delivery, every detail has been taken care of to ensure that guests have great experiences.” While Cibola Vista’s desert location makes it special, it also offers its own unique challenges. “With Cibola Vista being one of the few resorts in this area of Arizona, we recruit many of our associates from the retail service environment rather than a resort environment,” Grzywna says. “We train those without prior experience in the tenets and practices of hospitality, and we immerse all associates in the Bluegreen culture and brand of hospitality.” To ensure an excellent experience, Cibola’s employees do not come in contact with guests until it is certain that they can deliver the service that guests expect and deserve. Even

cibolavista.com RCI VENTURES 37


Secrets to Success The latest addition to AMResorts’ Secrets Resorts & Spas portfolio, Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica, is setting a new standard for romantic getaways in Costa Rica.



Guests appreciate the opportunity to vacation in unique destinations, and our growth strategy is focused on entering more places where travelers want to be. —GONZALO DEL PEON, President, AMResorts and Unlimited Vacation Club

38 Q1 2016

Gonzalo del Peon President AMResorts and Unlimited Vacation Club

Carlos Cespedes Product manager Unlimited Vacation Club

Lisa Logan Specialist Unlimited Vacation Club

Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica, on Costa Rica’s Papagayo Peninsula, opened in November 2015 and is the 14th property in the Secrets Resorts & Spas portfolio.



locations for a new property for its Secrets Resorts & Spas brand, Costa Rica was a natural choice. In late 2014 the resort group opened the doors of Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica in Playa El Jobo, an area known for its expansive palm-studded beaches and lush green mountains and jungles. An immediate success with guests, Dreams Las Mareas demonstrated the Central American country’s undeniable vacation appeal. So when another resort property in the Guanacaste region became available early last year, AMResorts jumped at the chance to transform it into the 14th property in the Secrets Resorts & Spas portfolio. Following a brief renovation, Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica opened in November 2015 on the Papagayo Peninsula, just two hours south of Dreams Las Mareas. Gonzalo del Peon, president of AMResorts and its exclusive travel product, Unlimited Vacation Club, empha-

sizes that the resort’s prime location—a secluded beach with spectacular panoramic views of Culebra Bay—is key to its appeal. “Guests appreciate the opportunity to vacation in unique destinations, and our growth strategy is focused on entering more places where travelers want to be,” del Peon says. “The Papagayo Peninsula is an excellent addition to AMResorts’ generous array of beachfront tropical locations where guests can experience our Unlimited-Luxury® concept.” Location truly is everything at Secrets Papagayo, which balances the allure of a remote resort location with the appeal of bustling nearby attractions— ultimately differentiating it from surrounding resorts in Guanacaste. It’s just 20 minutes from Liberia International Airport and close to the likes of Marina Papagayo, a luxury recreational port that offers a variety of activities, including fishing, diving and surfing; Playas del Coco, the popular beach community; and RCI VENTURES 39

Liberia, the capital of Guanacaste, whose main street is lined with restored historic homes. “We are confident these will be unique selling points for our new resort,” says Lisa Logan, specialist for Unlimited Vacation Club.


Capturing romance

Secrets Papagayo will further distinguish itself by creating romantic getaways for an adultsonly clientele. “Because Dreams Las Mareas has been such a popular resort, especially for our target market of families, it only made sense to further saturate this unique destination with a vacation experience exclusively for adults,” Logan says. “Being an adults-only resort, Secrets Papagayo sets itself apart from Dreams Las Mareas, which caters to couples and couples with children. That is not to say that Dreams Las Mareas doesn’t offer a vacation experience that’s suited to couples, but Secrets Papagayo definitely offers unique romantic experiences.” Secrets Papagayo is primed to host major milestones for couples, including honeymoons, anniversaries and even destination weddings. And as it has 202 secluded bungalows that span a landscape of 88,000 square feet, there’s plenty of space for couples to enjoy a truly private and relaxing visit. Unique romantic experiences include intimate wedding ceremony and reception locations and romantic nooks situated throughout the property. 40 Q1 2016

Clockwise from top: Poolside at the Secrets Papagayo spa; a private view of Culebra Bay from a standard room in one of the 202 secluded bungalows; a stunning welcome in the resort’s lobby.

All-inclusive amenities

Before it became what is now Secrets Papagayo, the property was operated by another resort company. To ensure that it not only met but exceeded the standards of the Secrets Resorts & Spas brand, AMResorts required that it undergo six months of enhancements last year. All rooms and suites now provide one king bed or two double beds with a private furnished terrace, a spacious bathroom with shower, deluxe bath amenities, a 48-inch smart television, a vanity mirror, a Secrets box (which ensures 24-hour room service delivery with complete privacy), a daily refreshed mini-bar, a pillow menu and more. The Preferred Club room categories will offer upgrades that include deluxe mini-bar inclusions, superior bath amenities and

even premium locations. A private Preferred Club lounge is available in which these guests can enjoy private check-in and check-out, daily continental breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres, evening desserts and other services. Various facilities at Secrets Papagayo also have fresh new looks and furnishings. There are five dining options, including three à la carte restaurants, an international buffet and a coffee café. Plus, guests will be able to experience five bars and lounges ranging from a swim-up bar to a music lounge. The activity roster at Secrets Papagayo is equally robust, offering beach volleyball, Pilates, water aerobics, cooking lessons and nonmotorized water sports for owners and guests. When the sun goes down, the resort will host themed nights, like beach parties, karaoke

Plans for Expansion W H AT ’ S N E X T F O R T H E S E C R E T S R E S O R T S & S PA S B R A N D. It’s an exciting time for AMResorts and Unlimited Vacation Club as the group continues to capitalize on new growth opportunities in the Latin American market. “Secrets Resorts & Spas is one of the largest, fastest-growing brands in our collection,” Lisa Logan, specialist for Unlimited Vacation Club, says. “Overall our company will have more than 50 resorts by the end of 2018.” In addition to Secrets Papagayo, here are two more newcomers to the Secrets collection: Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya opened in November and is a new flagship property for the Secrets brand. Set on a sugar-white beach in Akumal, in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, it boasts 434 spacious suites, some of which provide guests with swim-out access. Plus, the resort is only 500 feet from the world’s second-largest barrier reef— positioned perfectly for diving and snorkeling.

shows and big-screen movie viewings on the beach. No surprise: Logan also emphasizes the variety of points of interest near the resort; tours and excursions are available to guests at an additional cost. “There are so many ways to experience Costa Rica with sunset cruises, scuba diving, surfing, fishing, ATVs, horseback riding and hiking,” Logan says. “Guests should be sure not to miss Peninsula Papagayo Golf Course, Arenal Volcano National Park, Santa Rosa National Park, Rincon de la Vieja National Park and even the nightlife of Coco Beach.” Common goals

As Secrets Resorts & Spas continues to grow, so too does AMResorts’ relationship with RCI—and Secrets Papagayo is already available for exchange to RCI® subscribing members (see Plans for Expansion,

above, for additional newcomers to the brand). “The goal of the affiliation between RCI, AMResorts and Unlimited Vacation Club is to continuously provide high-quality products to our mutual clients in key destinations,” says Carlos Cespedes, product manager for Unlimited Vacation Club. “By continuing our rapid growth plan, we can provide our mutual clients with even more great resort options to choose from and increase brand recognition as well as loyalty.” And this means that even more luxurious beach getaways will be available to AMResorts guests now and in the future.

unlimitedvacationclub.com/ resorts/secrets/secrets papagayocostarica

Eco Effort CO S TA R I C A I S A WO R L D L E A D E R I N E N V I R O N M E N TA L P R E S E RVAT I O N — A N D S E C R E T S PA PAG AYO I S D O I N G I T S PA R T. Within its approximate 19,000 square miles, Costa Rica contains 5 percent of the world’s plant life and wildlife. Which means that an estimated half million species of flora and fauna thrive in the diverse ecosystems, like rain forests and coral reefs, of a country that takes up just 0.01 percent of the world’s landmass. Those are staggering numbers, and Costa Rica has been heralded for its commitment to preserving its biodiversity and for pioneering ecotourism. Secrets Papagayo, too, understands its stake in preserving the country’s natural wonders, according to Lisa Logan. “The staff at Secrets Papagayo will kindly ask that guests adhere to government smoking regulations, in an effort to protect the local environment and keep the country green,” Logan says. “Though the resort is non-smoking as a whole, there are designated smoking areas located throughout the property to accommodate those guests. This effort follows Secrets Resorts & Spas’ and AMResorts’ strong commitment to environmental sustainability.”




Secrets Cap Cana Resort & Spa is set to open in November 2016, on Cap Cana’s Juanillo Beach. It will be the second resort under the Secrets umbrella to be located in the Dominican Republic.

The South African landscape at Seasons Sport and Spa, which encompasses 300 acres.




1 2

1. Dunkeld Country & Equestrian Estate 6

2. Humala, in the Songimvelo Nature Reserve SOUTH AFRICA

3. Shearwater on Sea 4. Burgundy Luxury Apartments


5. Ocean Shores 6. Seasons Sport and Spa 7. West Cadets Apartments

42 Q1 2016




South African Idylls By providing guests with immersive vacation experiences, the Touch Down Group embodies the spirit of adventure and luxury. B Y B R E E S P O S AT O

Alutius Oberholzer Chairman Touch Down Group

Eben Odendaal CEO Touch Down Group




Alutius Oberholzer and CEO Eben Odendaal, who have worked together in the industry since 1993, recognized an opportunity to establish a unique vacation experience product in the beautiful and varied terrain of South Africa. The Touch Down Group was born in 2010 as a high-quality family-oriented resort portfolio at an affordable price point and emphasizing robust activity programs. “The Touch Down Group has a multifaceted approach to hospitality and tourism that caters to people across an entire spectrum,” Odendaal says. “We focus on the experience of a destination and provide specialized service based on location, type of property and target market. Our guests can get lost in the experience while trusting that they’re in expert hands.” Touch Down Group’s first launch was Dunkeld Country & Equestrian Estate, in Dullstroom, which paved the way for four additional resorts, in Cape Town, the

Garden Route, North West province and Mpumalanga. Touch Down Group caters to travelers seeking distinctive experiences: beach, safari, country and adventure. It is a model that is proving successful, and the company is already expanding. Touch Down Group recently added a 10-bed safari lodge called Humala, in the Songimvelo Nature Reserve, as well as luxury apartments in London. That’s a total of seven properties and more than 2,000 beds in a portfolio that includes timeshare, hospitality, corporate rentals and North American inbound tours. Even now the company employs 570 people, in Africa as well as in Sarasota, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States; and in Toronto, Canada. Luxury informs its approach and is at the core of the Touch Down Group product. After acquiring Dunkeld Country & Equestrian Estate, Touch Down Group affiliated with RCI’s The Registry Collection® program, a global luxury exchange network of about 200 exclusive properties. “This

is the best affiliation for top-tier properties, like Dunkeld Country & Equestrian Estate,” Odendaal says. “Through The Registry Collection, we are able to target a segment of the market that seeks high-end accommodation.” Owners are guaranteed that their resort has met the program’s strict standards of luxury and exclusivity. Furthermore, Touch Down Group is committed to adding value to its properties with new features and programs at every opportunity. This big-picture, future-forward approach, layered on top of the brand’s luxury focus, is deeply appealing to owners.


Curating the countryside Dunkeld Country & Equestrian Estate is a picturesque trout and game lodge that’s just a two-and-a-half hour drive from Johannesburg. Here it’s all about luxury accommodations and active experiences. Eighteen still-water dams afford great opportunities to catch brown, rainbow and

Attraction Spotlight: The Magaliesberg Mountains Almost 100 times older than Mount Everest and half the age of the Earth, this South African mountain range was designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 2015. The Harties Cableway stretches from nearby Hartbeespoort Dam—a destination in its own right, thanks to an array of water sports, such as tube rides and speedboat cruises—to the top of the range, providing sweeping views of the surrounding ridges. And at Hartbeespoort’s Elephant Sanctuary, guests can walk hand in trunk with the elephants.

44 Q1 2016

golden trout (the largest haul so far was a rainbow trout that clocked in at more than seven pounds). This offering has been so successful, Dunkeld invested in one of the biggest hatcheries in the southern hemisphere, where guests will be able to take tours. One of the property’s most popular amenities is its world-class Equestrian Centre, which houses studios and one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. Outside, whitewashed fences surround Thoroughbred horses, including a Dutch Warmblood stud. The setting is so idyllic, it comes as little surprise that the adjacent garden serves as a wedding venue. But the property’s activity roster is nothing if not well rounded, and guests can choose to play tennis, bird-watch or ride along horseback trails. Also on offer: heated indoor and outdoor pools and 40 miles of purposebuilt mountain-biking trails. The resort’s staff takes pride in extending personal attention to each guest, and management has designed the resort’s programming to ensure that families are well accommodated. For example, children may choose to explore the countryside as part of a supervised kids’ program while their parents go fly-fishing. Another draw: the restaurant, in a 100-year-old converted farmhouse. Many guests dine on-site, but because the resort is in Dullstroom, a small town known for its shops, pubs and good food, families can opt to inject a dose of village life into their stay. And there’s more innovation on the horizon: The company has started developing 38 additional luxury four-bedroom villas. Mountainside eco-haven Seasons Sport and Spa, also an affiliate of RCI’s The Registry Collection program, sprawls over 300 acres on the northern slopes of the Magaliesberg Mountains, ideally located only 45 minutes north of Johannesburg—close to the city but far enough away to feel removed from civilization. Family is a major focus here, and the kids’ program offers many activities. This gives parents the rare peace of mind that comes from knowing that their children are being entertained while they take advantage of the property’s neighboring golf course and luxurious spa. It’s no wonder the spa won Best Hotel Spa at the 2015 Les Nouvelles Esthetiques Spa Awards, thanks to its 11 hydrotherapy facilities, sleep-therapy rooms and double treatment pods suspended over a dam. And the 18-hole par 72 course is one of the few bushveld golf courses in South Africa: Players can actually tee off among antelope, zebras and indigenous bird life. Beyond the spa facilities and the golf course, there are seemingly endless activity options. The resort has private heated outdoor swimming pools (one is specially designated for children), private bomas (gathering places), a children’s playground and game room, and a picnic area. And its prox-

Crocodile River, near Hartbeespoort Dam, in South Africa. Opposite, clockwise from top right: The grounds of Dunkeld Country & Equestrian Estate; luxury guest accommodations at Dunkeld; on the golf course at Seasons Sport and Spa; an indoor pool at Seasons.


And there’s more in store for the ambitious property: “Not only are we adding 48 four-bed lodges,” Odendaal says, “we are in the last phase of our water-park build, which has five pools and four slides. We will also be building a fast-food restaurant in the water park.” With similar expansion under way throughout its portfolio, Touch Down Group is certainly living up to its original mission, according to Odendaal: “We’ve recognized that there was a need for resorts where guests would get personal attention while enjoying a destination experience.” And thanks to the lush natural surroundings offered by South Africa itself, there will be no shortage of opportunities to create even more unique experiences.

Our guests can get lost in the experience while trusting that they’re in expert hands. —EBEN ODENDAAL, CEO, Touch Down Group INSIGHT

imity to the Magaliesberg Mountains (see Attraction Spotlight, opposite) and Hartbeespoort Dam gives guests the chance to experience activities unique to the area, including the Harties Cableway, the Elephant Sanctuary and water sports on the dam. Environmental responsibility is essential to the resort’s approach, and new developments are built to be as green as possible: Villas are equipped with solar-powered convection ovens; air conditioners employ just 30 percent of the power used by standard air conditioners; and rainfall catchment roofs are in place for irrigation. Having completed a carbon footprint audit, the resort managers now know where to focus their attention for continued improvement. The goal? To be carbon neutral by 2017 and off the grid in five years.

touchdownresorts.co.za RCI VENTU R ES 45


Whether you’re trying to improve your sales, make your resort operations more cost-effective, or simply find tools to help your Homeowner’s Association manage a sold-out property, you can find best-in-class solutions through the RCI Affiliate Access program! Training Solutions • Interactive Sales & Education Tools Sourcing of Resort Goods & Services • Risk Management/Insurance Customer Feedback Solutions • Video & Photo Production Collection Services • Rental Solutions • Data Analytics Solutions Accounting Services • Reserve Study Assistance

Certified Public Accountants and Business Advisors

Cunningham Asset Recovery Services, LLC

To learn more about the Affiliate Access program, visit RCIAffiliates.com/AffiliateAccess. RCI and related marks are registered trademarks and/or service marks in the United States and internationally. All rights reserved. ©2015 RCI, LLC. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A.

Recent RCI ® Affiliated Resorts* RCI Weeks® program

Hotel Colono Beach Playas del Coco, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Watamu Tropical Resort Watamu, Kenya

Lake Windermere Pointe Invermere, British Columbia, Canada

Wyndham Sea Pearl Resort Phuket Phuket, Thailand

Mirasol Resort Daman, India

RCI Points® program

Pratagy Beach Resort Wyndham Maceió, Alagoas, Brazil

Calypso Cay Kissimmee, Florida

Ramada Resort Port Douglas Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia

Island Cay at Clearwater Beach Clearwater Beach, Florida

Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya by UVC Pueblo de Akumal, Mexico

The Registry Collection® program

Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica by UVC Carrillo, Costa Rica

Ocean Lodge St. Simons Island, Georgia

Shangshanqi Chengdu, China

Wyndham Vacation Resorts Denarau Island Nadi, Fiji

Taoyuan Hotspring International Hotel Chengdu, China

Wyndham Vacation Resorts Seven Mile Beach Seven Mile Beach, Tasmania, Australia

Costão do Santinho Resort, Golf & Spa Florianópolis, Brazil

Treat Resort Silvassa Silvassa, India

Wyndham Vacation Resorts Sydney Sydney, Australia

Green Park Private Club Punta del Este, Uruguay

Viva Tambor Bahia Tambor, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Wyndham Vacation Resorts Wanaka Wanaka, New Zealand

Atlantic Hotel & Vacation Club Porlamar, Venezuela Big Week Hakone Gora Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan Big Week Izukogen Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan Big Week Karuizawa Nagano Prefecture, Japan Big Week Kyoto Kyoto Prefecture, Japan Big Week Tateshina Nagano Prefecture, Japan Boao Holliyard Seaview Hotel Qionghai, Hainan, China Breathless Cabo San Lucas Resort & Spa by UVC Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

What’s Happening Conferences, seminars, expos, summits, workshops, exhibitions, forums, symposiums, conventions, events and meetings you should know about. JA N UA RY



FEBRUARY 11 Leisure Real Estate Summit London, England leisurerealestatesummit .com

MARCH 9–13 ITB (Internationale Tourismus-Börse) Berlin Berlin, Germany itb-berlin.de/en

JANUARY 21–23 Caribbean Travel Marketplace Paradise Island, Bahamas caribbeanhotelandtourism.com

FEBRUARY 25–27 Guangzhou International Travel Fair Guangzhou, China 10times.com/guangzhoutravel-fair

MARCH 15–16 HICAP (Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific) Update Singapore hicapconference.com

MARCH 4–6 TATOC (The Association of Timeshare Owners Committee) Warrington, England tatoc.co.uk

MARCH 15–18 MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels de l’Immobilier)—The World’s Property Market Cannes, France mipim.com

JANUARY 25–27 ALIS (The Americas Lodging Investment Summit) Los Angeles, CA, USA alisconference.com JANUARY 28–31 The 20th Annual EMITT (East Mediterranean International Tourism and Travel Exhibition) Istanbul, Turkey emittistanbul.com

MARCH 7–9 IHIF (International Hotel Investment Forum) Berlin, Germany berlinconference.com

APRIL 3–5 Cityscape Jeddah Jeddah, Saudi Arabia cityscapejeddah.com

*Due to space limitations and other considerations, this list might not include all resorts that have recently affiliated with RCI.

APRIL 4–6 IBTM Africa Cape Town, South Africa ibtmafrica.com APRIL 4–6 ILTM (International Luxury Travel Market) Africa Cape Town, South Africa iltm.com APRIL 5–6 HICSA (Hotel Investment Conference South Asia) New Delhi, India hicsaconference.com APRIL 6–8 World Travel Market Africa Cape Town, South Africa wtmafrica.com APRIL 12–14 Cityscape Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi, UAE cityscapeabudhabi.com



JANUARY 20–24 FITUR (International Tourism Trade Fair) Madrid, Spain ifema.es/fitur_06




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Visit hdsupplysolutions.com for more information. All products and services are manufactured and/or provided solely by HD Supply Facilities Maintenance and not by RCI, its parent and/or affiliates. Neither RCI nor its parent or affiliates are responsible for the accuracy or completeness of any statements made in this advertisement, the content of this advertisement (including the text, representations and illustrations) or any material on a website to which the advertisement provides a link or a reference. Please refer to the applicable brand specifications for your property prior to purchasing products. © 2015 HDS IP Holding, LLC. All Rights Reserved. 15-12267

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Introducing the new Guest Supply, a Sysco company ®

full spectrum


For over 30 years, we’ve been refining our unique mix of industry experience from manufacturing to distribution, product design to quality assurance and ensuring our place in a global world. As a single source expert, we’re able to ensure one point of contact; guaranteeing efficiency and consistency across the board. We’re partners in attention to details, teammates in a better service. At Guest Supply, we don’t stop refining, tinkering, maximizing the potential of every product we believe there’s always room for improvement. We’re citizens of a global world, offering hotel solutions to nearly 25,000 hotels across 88 countries.




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All products and services are manufactured and/or provided solely by Sysco Guest Supply, LLC and not by RCI, its parent and/or affiliates. Neither RCI nor its parent or affiliates are responsible for the accuracy or completeness of any statements made in this advertisement, the content of this advertisement (including the text, representations and illustrations) or any material on a website to which the advertisement provides a link or a reference.


What was one of your favorite holidays of all time? RM: This is a hard question to answer, since travel is one of my greatest joys. I would say the holidays I enjoy the most are with my three boys. My favorite holiday is our most recent trip to Italy and France. After visiting Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Positano and Sorrento, we rented a car and took 10 days to drive to Paris. We passed through Rome, Florence, Maranello (Ferrari!), Pisa, Genoa, San Remo, Monaco and St. Tropez and then headed north through Avignon, Lyon, Dijon, Reims and Paris. I’ve also taken memorable business trips to South America and family holidays to Africa. What’s your top must-see destination? RM: My favorite city in the world is Mexico City, but I live there. Paris would be my second favorite. Other must-sees are Rio, Machu Picchu, Istanbul, Sydney, Cape Town, Edinburgh, New York, San Francisco, Rome, Florence and Barcelona. In general, gastronomy and history are important drivers for me. Hiking boots or snorkeling fins? RM: Snorkeling and scuba! I love the beach and the ocean. And what’s your favorite beach? RM: Punta Maroma, in Playa del Carmen. What is the best, or strangest, meal you’ve tasted during your travels? RM: I’ve enjoyed excellent meals on many of my travels, especially in France, Spain and Italy and, of course, our very own Mexican tacos al pastor. While traveling with my eldest son in Lisbon, I had the best arroz caldoso de mariscos (seafood rice in a broth) at Solar dos Presuntos restaurant, on Rua Portas de Santo Antão, just a block away from Avenida da Liberdade. It ruined me for life;

52 Q1 2016

I’ve never found anything quite as delicious. Mexican food isn’t strange to me, but the rest of the world might find the Mexican seasonal delicacy of worm tacos and ants’ eggs to be so. What is your greatest passion? RM: After spending time with my three boys, it would be cooking and eating, and RCI. Who is your hero? RM: First would be Publio Cornelio Escipión, a Roman consul and an extraordinary military general in the 200s B.C. He defeated Hannibal and contributed to Rome’s thousand-plus years of empire. Second would be Napoleon. He’s a controversial figure, but he was a visionary, a fantastic architect and a statesman who not only produced many of France’s beautiful monuments but also created the French civil code, or Napoleonic Code, which even today exists in many countries as their main form of law. If you were going to an island and could bring only three things, what would you bring? RM: A book, a smartphone with a strong G4 signal and food and water (or wine). Matches and a fishing rod would be helpful too. What’s your breakfast of choice? RM: Huevos rancheros! If you could relive one moment in your life, big or small, what would it be? RM: Most all of my moments with my three boys, especially our Christmas holidays and vacations. You need to understand that with my three boys, of the four I am the youngest and most immature.


RCI Off-Duty

It’s not all business at RCI. In this series RCI Ventures® magazine checks in with key team members to talk vacations, hobbies, heroes and more. This time we caught up with Ricardo Montaudon, president and CEO of RCI Latin America.

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Vacation Ownership Financing





You can feel confident investing in vacation ownership developments with Capital One® Commercial Banking. We offer the balance sheet capacity of a top 10 U.S. bank with a team of seasoned professionals who understand the complexities of financing timeshare and vacation ownership developments. Contact us to see how we can combine your vision with our commitment, insights, and financing. James Casey James.Casey@capitalone.com (860) 348-8861

Source: SNL Financial 4/30/2015. Subject to credit approval. Additional terms and conditions apply. Products and services are offered by Capital One, N.A., Member FDIC. © 2015 Capital One. Capital One is a federally registered service mark. All rights reserved.

Tom Meyerer Tom.Meyerer@capitalone.com (646) 836-5038